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Difference Between Task, Exercise, Activity

Question:

Submitted by Jayanta Das, India

What is the difference between a task, an exercise and an activity?

Professor Richards Responds:

These terms are understood differently depending on who defines them. I use them as follows:

An exercise is a teaching procedure that involves controlled, guided or open ended practice of some aspect of language. A drill, a cloze activity, a reading comprehension passage can all be regarded as exercises.

The term activity is more general and refers to any kind of purposeful classroom procedure that involves learners doing something that relates to the goals of the course. For example singing a song, playing a game, taking part in a debate, having a group discussion, are all different kinds of teaching activities.

A task is normally defined as follows:

  • It is something that learners do, or carry out, using their existing language resources or those that have been provided in pre-task work.
  • It has an outcome which is not simply linked to learning language, though language acquisition may occur as the learner carries out the task.
  • It is relevant to learners’ needs.
  • It involves a focus on meaning.
  • In the case of tasks involving two or more learners, it calls upon the learners’
  • use of communication strategies and interactional skills.
  • It provides opportunities for reflection on language use.